Update any room in your house by adding new tile. Although thoroughly modern in many applications and designs, tiles have been used in structure and decoration for over two millennia. Tiles come in a range of materials, a rainbow of colors, and a vast array of shapes and sizes that can be used for everything from walls and floors to backsplashes, tubs or shower enclosures, countertops, and much more.
Skilled tile installation professionals can install new stone or tile flooring, ceramic or porcelain tile, tile mosaics, and more for installation in kitchens, bathrooms, hallways, outside patios and entranceways. Tile backsplashes are a popular way to quickly upgrade your kitchen, and are more affordable than a total kitchen makeover. Subway tiles have long been popular for bathrooms and kitchens, but new trends are also emerging with shapes like hexagons, herringbone patterns and diamond shapes. If you're unsure what color of tile to install in your bathroom or kitchen, neutrals consistently have the best resale value and offer the most versatility for updating your paint and decor.
Professionals can tile small areas under 25 square feet or large areas over 200 square feet. You can cover concrete, wood or drywall with tile. Most tile installation professionals will also remove existing tile or carpet and other non-tile materials before installing your new tile when that labor is negotiated into the contract. When you hire a tile contractor, they will quote you a price based on the square footage of the project, any prep or repair work required prior to installation, the complexity of the installation and tile pattern, regional labor costs, and materials costs. Tile installers generally provide the installation materials needed, including tile cutters, backer board, thinset mortar and other tools of the trade. Either clients or the tile installation company can provide the tiles.
If you're ready to upgrade a room, wall, floor or outdoor space, here are the factors that affect tile installation costs.
For kitchen, bathroom, flooring and outdoor work, most tile professionals base the cost for tile installation on the square footage of your project. The cost per square foot varies, depending on where the tiles are installed, the size of the surface area to be tiled, the size of the tiles and other factors. Small tiles and custom patterns take longer and require more precision to install, which will result in a higher installation cost. Generally the larger the project size, the lower the cost per square foot. Small projects still require the time and resources of a skilled tradesman, who must arrive with all their equipment and set up as they would for a larger job. Here are a few average pricing examples from W&B Villa Construction in Deerfield Beach, Florida:
- Wood-look tile installation in areas ranging from 6x24 feet to 8x48 feet: $3.20-$3.50 per square foot
- Prices drop with larger installation areas.
- Tile installation on 3-foot by 5-foot regular tub and shower walls with an 8-foot ceiling: $1,450
- The same tub and shower walls with tiles reaching up to a 10-foot ceiling: $1,650
Determining the square footage for a tile project is important for getting an accurate quote from tile contractors. To determine the square footage, measure the floor or other surface's length and multiply that number by its width. For example, a 10-foot by 11-foot room would be 110 square feet. But it's not always that easy. If a room is 12 feet, 7 inches by 10 feet, 2 inches, you could round up to the nearest foot on each dimension to make it 13x11, which would be 143 square feet. It's not a bad idea to overestimate the square footage on a project because contractors might need a little extra to allow for broken tiles or unusual shapes. You could also convert everything to inches; 12 feet, 7 inches would be 151 inches, and 10 feet, 2 inches would be 122 inches. Thus, 151x122 inches = 18,422 square inches. You then divide the total square inches by 144 (which is 12 inches by 12 inches) to get the total square footage — in this case, 127.9 square feet.
If a tile installation project is in an area that has had a leak, mold damage or a structural integrity issue, some tile contractors can repair the damage to prepare it for new tiles. The overall cost of the project will increase to cover the added labor, materials and disposal of materials. If the needed repairs aren't apparent until the original backsplash or flooring has been removed, your quote will likely increase to encompass this new scope of work. Contractors aren't trying to trick customers when this occurs; in any construction project that includes demolition (removal of existing structures), there is always the chance of uncovering surprises such as dry rot. Communicate clearly with your professional about any pricing changes to make sure you understand what repairs are needed and what the cost will be.
For example, W&B Villa Construction explains that it's often necessary to repair the shower pan when re-tiling a shower. If the original shower liner was not installed correctly — perhaps there was cutting and perforation instead of folding, or the shower pan floor wasn't pitched correctly prior to liner installation — the water may not be able to drain properly if it leaks through the tiles, leading to mold, rot and other problems that will only be discovered when the pros go in to install new shower tiles. The more moisture has collected in the area, the more complicated the repair job is likely to be. W&B Villa Construction charges an average of $800-$1,600 for shower pan repair, depending on the extent of work needed and materials.
In general, the less time the job takes, the lower your cost will be. Even if you're no tile pro, you can see that it's much quicker to install tile on a smooth, even surface than on lumpy areas that need to be sanded out first. Tile installation jobs over smooth surfaces typically cost less because the installer needs to do less prep work before laying the tile. Uneven floors, old flooring that must be removed, and walls or counters that require backer board installation or additional steps beyond the standard preparation may increase overall cost per square foot.
Tile backsplashes in the kitchen and bathroom are generally an affordable solution for revamping an outdated space. The cost per square foot for installing a backsplash will typically be higher than for installing a tile floor, to account for the smaller project size. For example, Kevin Spagnola of K.V.S. Remodeling in Algonquin, Illinois, says installation costs in his area range between $10 and $40 per square foot, depending on the complexity of the project, any repairs need and other factors. In general, the cost to install a 25-square-foot backsplash could range between $425 and $900, per K.V.S. Remodeling.
DIY tile installation
Tile installation is an area where the skilled homeowner can save money by upgrading their own tile. But you should take on this task only if you are already skilled at working with tile. Tile work is an art and your new floors, backsplash and bathroom are not great places to learn the hard way. Interior designer Nicki La Herran of NBL Design in San Mateo, California, explains that in many cases where homeowners do their own tile projects, it ends up costing them more in the long run because they have to buy a second set of tiles and pay a professional to tear out their work and properly install it. Having a polished look to your tile is especially important if you ever plan to sell your home. Homebuyers love a beautiful kitchen, and a nice backsplash is the centerpiece of your kitchen, so you want it to really shine. Before embarking on a DIY tiling effort, consider the cost of the tile, how much time you have to do the work, and your skill. To estimate the cost of tile materials, here are some average prices from big box stores:
- Marble tiles can range in price from $5 to $45 (or more) per square foot.
- Ceramic tiles range in price from less than $1 to $50 and more per square foot.
Your geographic location will affect tile installation costs. Tile professionals in larger cities and regions with a higher cost of living typically charge higher rates for services. This is because it costs more money to run a business in an expensive area where insurance costs are higher, employee labor rates cost more, and vehicle maintenance and fuel are more expensive. In addition, very moist or coastal environments can be more challenging for tile installation, so costs may be higher in these regions as well.
Type of tile
Tile prices range from under $1 to well over $50 per square foot, depending on the material, manufacturer and demand. For example, slate tiles cost on average much more than imitation stone. Selecting tiles with a higher average cost per square foot affects the total cost of a project. In addition, handmade tiles and nonuniform tiles can cost more to install because they must be hand-prepped, or "back buttered," by applying mortar to the uneven components of the back of the tile to ensure that it lies flat. This also adds to labor cost.
There are many types of ceramic tile, each with its own characteristics, advantages and disadvantages.
- Ceramic tile. What is commonly referred to as "ceramic tile" is usually stoneware, which is a type of ceramic made from gray clay. Stoneware ceramics are fired in a kiln at a higher temperature than terra cotta, making them stronger. Stoneware tiles are often glazed, which gives the tile a colorful, protective coating. Glazed stoneware tiles are usually double-fired in a kiln, making them stronger than unglazed tiles.
- Terra cotta tile. Terra cotta is the cheapest and most fragile variety of ceramic tiles. Commonly used for clay flowerpots, terra cotta is orange-red and is often laid without glaze, which makes it highly absorbent of stains, water and other spills.
- Mexican or "Saltillo" tile. This type of tile is made from terra cotta, but is sun-dried instead of baked in a kiln.
- Quarry tile. Contrary to their name, these tiles do not come from quarried stone but rather are unglazed ceramic tiles. Because they are unglazed, they must be sealed to prevent water absorption and staining.
- Porcelain tile. Porcelain is the white clay used to make fine china dishes and toilets. A tile must be tested for its durability and low water absorption rate by the Porcelain Tile Certification Agency (PTCA) to be certified as "porcelain." Certified porcelain tile can cost nearly twice as much as regular ceramic tile.
Many tiles are made from harder materials than ceramic:
- Natural stone tile. Cut stone tiles are strong and durable with pleasing color variations, but they need to be sealed to prevent staining or water damage.
- Cement tile. Poured into molds, cement tiles can be customized with coloring agents.
- Terrazzo tile. These Italian tiles are made from a cement base mixed with stone or marble chips to create a textured and varied surface.
Other popular tile materials include:
- Glass tile. Glass tiles are pieces of glass cut into uniform shapes that are bright and translucent. Glass tiles are often used as part of a mosaic pattern for backsplashes and wall tiles, but can also be sold as smaller, individual pieces. Glass tile is generally not used for flooring.
- Mosaic tile. Mosaic tiles can be made from ceramic, glass or metal tiles, and then mounted on mesh backing for easy installation.
Not every tile is good for every surface. High-traffic floors, for example, need strong, durable tiles, while less durable tiles might work for areas with lower traffic such as inside a shower. Tiles are rated in five classes, with Class V being the most durable and Class I too fragile for flooring. An experienced tile installer can make recommendations on the best tile product for your application.
- Class V tile. Heavy-duty tile in this class is approved for commercial and institutional flooring, so it can go anywhere in a residential environment.
- Class IV tile. This class of tile is good for any residential use, without looking like the floor at a school or a hospital.
- Class III tile. Good for residential areas with a normal amount of foot traffic, it can also be used for walls and countertops.
- Class II tile. These tiles are for residential areas with light foot traffic such as bathrooms.
- Class I tile. Keep these tiles on the walls. They are not durable enough for any amount of foot traffic.
Floor tiles are usually 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick, and most come as squares that vary in size from 4x4 inches to 24x24 inches. Tiles can also come in other shapes and sizes, including hexagonal, octagonal and rectangular "subway tiles." Small tiles or unusually shaped and sized tiles may take more time and expertise to install, increasing the overall cost of installation.
A tile's porosity classification indicates how porous it is and how many air pockets there are in the solid material of the tile. The more porous the tile, the more absorbent it is, which could be good or bad, depending on where it's installed. Tile porosity is rated according to what degree it is vitreous or glass-like. Here are the porosity classifications of tile:
- Non-vitreous tile. Bisqueware and terra cotta are not glass-like at all. This is the most absorbent type of tile; it's usually used as decorative or wall tile.
- Semi-vitreous tile. This type of tile is most common for residential applications outside the bathroom.
- Vitreous tile. This type is good for most areas inside the bathroom, except for the shower. Keep in mind that a glazed tile is resistant to water on its surface but not on its sides or back. Continued or repeated exposure to water could affect these tiles over time.
- Impervious tile. This is the least porous tile and is well-suited for high-moisture indoor areas such as baths and showers.
Hiring a tile installation professional
Whether you are working in the kitchen, doing a new build, installing new floors, laying a tile patio outdoors or renovating your bathroom, be sure to hire a reputable tile installation contractor. Tile flooring that is not put in place perfectly will look lumpy and uneven. A poorly installed kitchen backsplash can lower your future home sale price. Improperly installed shower tiles can end up costing more in the long run when leaks occur. If you are working on a larger kitchen or bathroom remodel, it is likely that your general contract will hire the tile installation pro as one of their subcontractors. However, if this is an isolated job or you are acting as your own project manager, the task falls to you to find an experienced tile worker who can handle your tile installation. The first step is to research local pros and narrow it down to a few that fit your needs.
Some states require that the pro have a contractor's license specific to tile and mosaic work. Not all states have a licensing requirement; always research what your state requires. For example, California's Department of Consumers Affairs Contractors State License Board requires anyone who is hired to do more than $500 of tile work on one project to hold a C-54 Ceramic and Tile Mosaic Contractors License. Verify that your pro's contractor's license and insurance are valid can save you a world of heartache later on. Next, ask two to three pros to come out and provide you an exact quote for your job. When scheduling the visit, tell them the square footage of your project and the size and type of tile you will be installing. Be sure to specify whether you need guidance on selecting tile or want them to order the tile on your behalf. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring.
Once you have accepted a bid, make sure you have a clearly written contract that lays out project scope and size. Indicate what materials are and are not included in the cost, state the timeframe for project completion, and specify what responsibilities fall under the tile pro's scope of work. Before the tile pro arrives at your house, make sure the area where they will be working is completely clean and free of decorations and other items. The easier you can make their job, the quicker the installation will be, the less you will pay, and the sooner you will have a beautiful new tile installation.
- Read client reviews and follow up with references to make sure you're choosing the right pro for your project. And check out our tips for smart hiring.